LOS ANGELES — After a federal court granted preliminary approval of a $36 million settlement of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) wage suit between a group of residential real estate appraisers and their employer, Bank of America, attorneys have submitted a request for $12 million in attorneys’ fees. This would constitute an upward departure from the typical fee of 25% of the common fund of settlement proceeds, but the attorneys argued that the increased fee is justified because of the very positive outcome for the class members. Under the settlement, each of the 369 class members would receive nearly $100,000 and would be reclassified as nonexempt employees.
Bank of America Considered Appraisers Exempt
According to the underlying suit, Bank of America considered the residential real estate appraisers to be exempt employees under FLSA and, therefore, not entitled to overtime pay. The appraisers, who are paid by commission, are tasked with appraising and generating appraisal reports for properties on which Bank of America offers mortgages. Bank of America argued that they qualified under a number of white collar FLSA exemptions. However, the appraisers responded that although their work was essential to the production of residential loan sales, they did not actually sell anything. The plaintiffs claimed that Bank of America forced them to work nights, weekends, and holidays without overtime pay.
White Collar Exemptions
Bank of America claimed that the appraisers were exempt under FLSA’s administrative, learned professional, and highly-compensated employee exemptions. For the administrative exemption to apply, an employee must have the primary duty of performing office or non-manual work directly related to the employer’s management or business operations and includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. As to the learned professional exemption, an employee’s duties must revolve around work that requires advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual study. Finally, with regard to the highly-compensated employee exemption, it applies to those employees with total annual compensation of at least $100,00 and who customarily perform one or more of the exempt duties of an executive, administrative, or professional employee.
The court found that none of these exemptions applied to the plaintiffs. It determined that the administrative exemption did not apply because the appraisers did not have the authority to formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices. Additionally, they did not have the ability to exercise discretion with regard to matters of significance. The court also found that the job of an appraiser did not entail specialized, advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning to qualify under the learned professional exemption.
Misapplying a FLSA exemption can result in the denial of duly-earned wages. If you believe your employer unlawfully deprived you of minimum wage and overtime by misclassifying you as an exempt employee, you should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine the best option. We will also determine you should file a lawsuit against your employer. Call our experienced attorneys today.